From MAJK’s Coffee Corner:
Thor #12 caught me off-guard. I expected a full issue exploring Jotunheim with The Mighty Thor laying waste to Frost Giants by the score. No such luck. Jason Aaron pulled an unexpected move with this issue. Tossing out Thor and completely ignoring that this is a Thor comic, Aaron addresses the big question we were left with following War of the Realms #1.
Aaron uses this issue to allow us to better understand the core of one of Marvel’s key characters. There is a huge story unfolding with the War of the Realms touching most if not all of the Marvel Universe, yet this story of self-analysis, personal growth, and evaluating life choices manages to be deeply interesting. Thor #12 dives deep into a single character’s life and allows us to see the core of what makes them who they are. Aaron’s unique curveball serves us a great “getting to know you” spotlight for fans not familiar with either this character or their history. Thor #12 also sets Marvel Comics up to tee off a highly anticipated series due out this summer.
SPOILER WARNING: If you have not read War of the Realms #1, War of the Realms #2, or Thor #1, there will be spoilers below!
Publisher: Marvel Writer: Jason Aaron Artist, Colors, & Cover: Mike Del Mundo
Letters: Joe Sabino Variant Covers: Olivier Coipel & Matthew Wilson
The Story So Far:
Thor #12 picks up right after War of the Realms #1, for those of you making a chronological War of the Realms reading list. Note that in that single issue the war had put three major Asgardians immediately out of commission. Thor is trapped in Jotunheim by Malekith. Odin was overwhelmed by dark elves. Most shocking, though, was Loki sacrificing himself to save Freya. You remember her? She’s the mother who loved him that he stabbed in the back with a poisoned blade. His penance came in the form of being eaten by his Frost Giant father, Laufey. Debates erupted among fans arguing whether he was dead. Thor #12 answers that question… sort of.
Thor #12 Cover
Before I dig into this issue, let’s talk about the covers. The standard Thor #12 cover by Mike Del Mundo is without exception gorgeous. I’d have loved it if the sepia-toned gradient background behind the wonderfully detailed Frost Giant had been blue, but blue is my favorite color so, yeah—biased. The chunks of ice clinging to the Frost Giant are just one of the impressive details in this cover. Ben Grimm and Iron Man broken in frozen pieces killed me. The absolute best thing about this cover can be applied to Coipel and Wilson’s variant cover as well. It’s sneaky. They both are cleverly misleading. Often the standard cover, at least, gives you clues to what is happening inside the book. NOPE. That’s not the case here. Nothing on either of these well-done covers has jack to do with the story in Thor #12.
The strongest argument fans have for doubting Loki’s dead are the Loki comics due out this summer. I feel safe mentioning the Loki Marvel Comics series because Disney has already announced them as well as a Loki miniseries starring Tom Hiddleston on Disney Plus. So, while there is room for both of these series feature a different timeline, I’m betting they indicate Loki’s not gone for good. I admit, though, the gruesome final panel in Thor #12 engenders serious doubts.
Thor #12 Is the Dickens
Thor #12 is, in its essence, an entire book on Loki talking to himself or, rather, selves. Jason Aaron is the only writer I’ve seen take that this straw-like premise and spin it into gold like some less crazy comic writing version of Rumpelstiltskin. Aaron capitalizes on Thor’s absence to tie in events from some previous issues, give us some history on Loki, and introduce us to other incarnations of The God of Mischief.
It’s hard to ignore the Dickens-esque storyline when Viking Loki tells our confused and torment boy that he’s not in Hel though he might “Wish it was before your visits are through.” It doesn’t come off as derivative. Kid Loki, still angry about being pulled from the Asgardians team, acknowledges Loki would “plagiarize some Dickens” not to learn any lesson but out of vanity and self-admiration. There is real genius in Aaron’s work here.
Piece of the Puzzle
Thor #12 offers so much information about what Loki loves, fears, and hates that it’s easy to overlook the most significant piece of information given. Aaron is not a writer given to purple prose, so rest assured there’s a good reason for this issue. I’d lay even odd that Loki’s encounter with the young Malekith caught in the war caused by Viking Loki is not just a study in Loki’s bad life choices but an invaluable clue to change the course of the War of the Realms. Sabino does his best to make certain we realize the importance of Loki’s realization with the perfectly emotive font that indicates both shock and registers truth.
Art & Writing of Thor #12
Loki has always been one of the Marvel Universe’s most confounding and complex characters. This is part of why he is so loved and, at the same time, reviled. Aaron deftly weaves a tale that is one-part Dicken’s Christmas Carol and one-part This Is Your Life. Loki narrates the most defining experience of his life, his magic tutelage by the Asgardian prisoner Eldred. Aaron builds a character study around that narration that forces Loki to face himself in all his forms and acknowledge his lengthy list of selfish crimes, petty desires, and the few extraordinary moments that he’s had. Self-reflection rarely makes for a good issue, and yet Aaron turns out a masterwork.
Del Mundo’s art is enthralling and ghastly by turn. His extensive skills allow him to turn out a gorgeous cover while crafting colors and interior art that elevates this issue. His interior art and coloring bring strong fantasy stylings that do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of atmosphere in Thor #12. His abstract ethereal creation increases the emotional impact of this story. This is not a high action comic, and yet Del Mundo creates the sense of intense action via bold colors with soft textures. He transitions each visit with a completely fresh color scheme suited to the emotion. The last full-page splash is so exquisitely rendered that, at first, your mind doesn’t quite register the extent of what is happening. Then it hits you. The final page is a slow burn nightmare that will lodge in your brain far beyond any cinematic horror scene.